What is protein?
Protein is an essential part of ones diet, lack of it and you will barely survive. Your body uses protein in order for the muscles to function and get stronger. It is also used for cardiovascular function as well as immunity from diseases.
The value of a protein is based on it’s amino acid makeup. Proteins are made up of 21 amino acids broken down into three types:
- Essential amino acids, which human body doesn’t produce in sufficient amounts so they have to be obtained from food or supplementation. There are 8 essential amino acids.
- Conditionally-essential amino acids, which your body cannot produce in proper amounts during the periods of illness, injury or emotional stress. There are 7 of these types.
- Non-essential amino acids which your body can synthesize in sufficient amounts. There are 6 of these types.
The ‘value’ of a protein source is based on how many of the 21 amino acids they contain. This is known as BV or Biological Value. Thus, proteins are broken down into two types:
- Complete Proteins: contain all of the essential amino acids.
- Incomplete Proteins: deficient in one or more of these amino acids.
Examples of complete protein sources would be whey, casein (contained in cottage cheese), milk, eggs, beef, chicken, fish, turkey, cheese, and yogurt.
Examples of incomplete protein sources are vegetables, fruits, rice, grains, oats, pasta, some nuts, bread, sunflower seeds.
It is possible to combine two or more incomplete protein sources to get a complete protein source. Below is a good chart representing the value of protein sources based on amino acid compositions.
How much is needed?
You will find articles all over the place on this subject. Most will agree however, that if you are a fairly sedentary individual, you need about .8 to 1 gram of protein to every kilogram (2.2lbs) of bodyweight or .36 to .45 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. So a 200 pound man would need between 72 to 90 grams of protein.
If you are physically active, trying to put on muscle or are a high caliber athlete, these amounts increase but still vary wildly from expert to expert and study to study. I have read articles that suggested .65 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to as high as 2 grams per pound of bodyweight.
This post addresses people that are very physically active; lift, run, cycle, swim, etc.
Too much protein is very hard on the kidneys especially for prolonged periods of time, ie decades so I definitely would not recommend the high end of 2 grams per pound of bodyweight. After competing for many years and lifting weights for a few decades, I would also not recommend the low end of .65 per pound of bodyweight. I found I lost muscle mass and weight. So my sweet spot that I recommend would be in the .85-1 gram per pound of bodyweight. It is also very realistic to attain within six meals.
When should I consume protein?
For starters, you will need to consume it with every meal in order to get the minimum daily amount required. Although there are some studies that claim no value in having a quick digesting protein drink after a work out, there are many more that says it is beneficial. Protein consumed 30 to 60 minutes after a long or intense workout promotes muscle recovery and synthesis if it’s paired with carbohydrates
Is there a difference in what type of protein to consume?
For post workout recovery, I recommend whey protein powder mixed with water. Whey not only has a high biological value but it is digested much quicker than all other proteins. Whey comes in standard form or Whey Concentrate and Whey Isolate for those that are lactose intolerant and wants something with a little less fat content as well.
Another form used in shakes is Casein protein powder. This is also a milk product but is much slower in digesting. This is recommended in bodybuilding magazines to be taken at night in order to allow the body to have time to digest it properly while you sleep. Another way to ingest casein protein would be a bowl of cottage cheese for example.
I keep things simple. I am a very active person hitting the gym six times a week and lifting fairly heavy weights. I stay lean year around. At a bodyweight of 180lbs I try to take in at least 150 grams of protein a day and no more than 180 grams. I take this in 25-30 gram meal increments or basically, protein at every meal.
I use Whey Concentrate with nothing fancy added to it. It is cheap to purchase. There are other Whey proteins with ‘secret’ mixtures added to it in order for increased efficiency so says the manufacturers. I have tried many of them and found no added cost to benefit value in them.
If you are lactose intolerant then a whey isolate is highly recommended.
Consume proper amounts of protein and you will achieve….Fit Forlife